Global Warming refers to the gradual increase in the earth’s temperature caused by human activity. The planet gets its core weather temperature from the greenhouse effect, which is a naturally occurring process in which gases trap heat in the lower level of the earth’s atmosphere. The rise and fall of greenhouse gases are a naturally occurring phenomenon and the source of the planet’s long history of ice ages followed by warming thaws.

In the 1880s, scientists began to notice a gradual warming trend in the earth’s atmosphere. Not until the 1950s did they realize that this was likely the result of human activities, such as deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels that became commonplace during the Industrial Age.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, global warming is “unequivocal” based on the increase in air and sea temperatures worldwide, rates of melting snow and ice, and the rise in average sea levels. If global warming continues unabated, it is predicted that temperatures will rise from 3°F to 7°F by 2100, the greatest rate of increase in the earth’s temperature in the past 10,000 years.

The brewing industry is already feeling the effects of global warming in several ways. Energy costs are rising worldwide as the industrial economy’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels for energy is affected by escalating oil costs. This increased cost gets passed down the manufacturing chain and affects the production line and packaging costs for breweries.

Prices on key ingredients for brewing are also beginning to rise as the agriculture industry is affected by changing weather patterns. Heat waves in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand in recent years have greatly damaged vital barley crops, reducing quality output. Breweries must pay a premium price for high-quality barley, available now in reduced amounts, or substitute for a lower quality level, which can contribute to lower malt extract, reduced processing performance, and inferior flavors. Hops are similarly affected. In 2009 the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute found that the concentration of bitter alpha acids in the prized Czech Saaz hops has declined 0.06% per year since 1954. The study blamed climate change for the decline of the overall quality of Czech Saaz. Many climate scientists expect global warming to put additional disease pressure on many food crops, including barley and hops.

In light of these events, many breweries are beginning to turn toward better environmental practices, especially through energy conservation and a general reduction of carbon footprints.